Britten: Holiday Diary; Three Character Pieces; Notturno; Five Walztes; Twelve Variations; Introduction & Rondo alla burlesca

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Britten
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Holiday Diary; Three Character Pieces; Notturno; Five Walztes; Twelve Variations; Introduction & Rondo alla burlesca
PERFORMER: Stephen Hough, Ronan O’Hora (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDM 5 67429 2 Reissue (1991)
Britten was a superb pianist, and as a composer he always preferred to have the piano to hand. Strange then that his solo piano works should be on the whole so disappointing. The facility is – as you’d expect – striking, but depths are avoided in favour of that typical idealised boyish charm (not to everyone’s taste) and occasional flashes of mercurial wit and/or naughty-boy wrong-note humour. Stephen Hough is at his lucid, seductive best, and the recordings serve him and duo-partner Ronan O’Hora well; but it’s the two-piano works which leave the strongest impression – the humour has a sharper edge, the invention more contrapuntal muscle and emotional force. Still, none of it is really great Britten. Stephen Johnson

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